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tv   NBC Nightly News  NBC  February 10, 2011 6:30pm-7:00pm EST

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mass confusion tonight in egypt. the world was expecting president mubarak to go, but after a speech to the nation, he's still there, still president. and now it's volatile, with thousands filling the streets. what happens next? "nightly news" begins now. captions paid for by nbc-universal television good evening. he's refusing to go. hundreds of thousands of protesters in cairo, along with this news organization, the
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white house, people around the world were expecting to see an aircraft, something, departing cairo by the close of business today with hosni mubarak on board. instead, this man's photo pretty much sums up the reaction of an entire country. when it came time for his speech to the nation on television, mubarak seemed defiant instead. he said all regimes make mistakes, and he said he's cheated death before. so even while the protesters were chanting "get out, get out, mubarak," even though the egyptian army had started the transfer of power, mubarak is still calling himself the president of egypt. though he has passed most of his powers, apparently, to his vice president. there are now predictions tomorrow's protest will be the largest in egyptian history. it is a fluid and highly confusing situation tonight, volatile in fact. we begin in cairo, once again with our chief foreign correspondent, richard engel.
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so, richard, how is it? again, this news organization, others, the white house, people in america, people in egypt and around the world thought this day would end with mubarak's departure and it didn't. >> reporter: sources, brian, close to president mubarak tell us this was simply not the plan or their understanding, but that over the course of the day, president mubarak grew more stubborn and changed his intention to step down. the day began with expectations. protesters gathered in tahrir square, mostly planning a major demonstration and a series of work stoppages on friday. but by late morning, word came that president mubarak would finally meet the protesters' demands and resign. the egyptian military made a surprise announcement, signaling that it was throwing its loyalty behind the demonstrators. [ speaking in foreign language ] >> reporter: a top military council held a rare meeting. a spokesman said the armed
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forces would defend the egyptian people and their legitimate demands, with a coup in the works. two sources close to president mubarak told nbc news that mubarak would resign by the end of the day. >> two separate sources told nbc news that egypt's president, hosni mubarak, will step down tonight. >> are there risks in your mind? >> reporter: other news organizations, including arabic media, were told the same, president mubarak would resign by night fall. >> widely expected to resign, at least those protesters in tahrir square think that's what he's going to do. >> reporter: and make that historic announcement in a speech to the nation. word quickly traveled to tahrir square. crowds of tens of thousands of protesters swelled to hundreds of thousands. the mood was excited, joyous. the army they felt was with them and mubarak would step down soon. as the crowds continued to grow, president mubarak convened his close advisers. state television showed the president meeting vice president omar suleiman and the prime minister. then at 11:00 p.m., several
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hours late, mubarak finally addressed the nation. his tone didn't sound like a man who was leaving. he said he was speaking to egyptians as someone who understood their desires, like a father. mubarak promised to change the constitution and said egypt has a road map and timetable to oversee democratic reforms ahead of elections next fall. the crowds in tahrir were silent, waiting to hear two words, "i resign." instead, mubarak said he would transfer authority to vice president suleiman, a close associate for years. but mubarak still called himself president. minutes later, suleiman spoke on television, confirming that he would oversee a transition, and stressed that mubarak is acting in the interests of the nation. in tahrir square, the reaction was utter disappointment. >> we were hoping he was going to step down. like everyone -- it's obvious, like that's the only thing that's going to defuse this bomb. >> reporter: mubarak seemed to be looking for a middle ground, transferring authority, but
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remaining president. egypt seems to be trying to turn president mubarak into a symbolic leader, a grandfather of the nation, but to the protesters it's clearly not enough. >> ominous words from that young woman, the only thing that's going to defuse this bomb. what an unbelievable day there in cairo, richard. we'll come back to your reporting later on. we want to show you another picture. this one shows shoes being held aloft by egyptian men while mubarak spoke, the ultimate sign of disrespect in the arab world. that should tell you how the crowd reacted to this speech in the square. our ron allen was in the square tonight for the reaction, saw those tens of thousands of egyptians. ron, how would you sum up the reaction? >> reporter: brian, it was just an incredible evening there in the square. so much anticipation, so much excitement, so many people daring to dream that this just might be a different kind of night, a moment in history.
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we spent time with two young men, both in their 30s, omar and ahmed. they're typical of the vanguard of the protesters. they have been there just about every day taking part in the protests. one of them had a wounded hand, bandaged because he had picked up a tear gas canister and thrown it back at police back sometime last week. we were with them as they listened to the speech hanging on every word like so many others in the crowd. and when it was over, they were just bitterly disappointed and feeling betrayed b eed by what president mubarak had said. >> really frustrating. because millions are here. we're waiting to hear good news and yet he's not giving it to them, with no reason but to preserve his pride. >> this dictator is remaining in our country, and tomorrow there will be a very, very big march that is going to be held and, yet, we are calm, we are peaceful. when, mubarak, are you going to
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provoke us? till when? >> reporter: the protests have been peaceful, but now there are many people in the square who are predicting there could be some kind of confrontation tomorrow. it's a very, very volatile situation. the protesters left filled with emotion, venting in the streets, marching with signs and banners saying "leave, leave, leave mubarak." so it's very unclear what might happen tomorrow. >> boy, it does feel newly sparked, ron, after some people were deflated, then that spark of anger as they departed tonight. ron allen, thank you for reporting on your time in the square. let's go there. we have an nbc news producer who is in tahrir square tonight. chapman bell. chapman, how would you describe things right now? >> reporter: well, brian, as you can see behind me, people have flocked towards the camera right now, eager to get their message out. they're not leaving. it's almost a festival-like atmosphere this evening. you have a stage to the right of me with people dancing and
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waving flags and singing songs. there's a tank behind me with people asleep under blankets, staying warm, and then there are families and other people of all walks of life walking around the square at the moment. their message is clear. they are not going anywhere yet until mubarak leaves his office. they will continue to be here, they tell me, many have said tomorrow, tomorrow will be the biggest day yet and they hope that they can -- that their efforts will pay off at some point. but as i said, tonight it remains festive and peaceful and very organized. brian. >> all right, chapman. chapman bell reporting from tahrir square tonight. there have been rumors they were going to try and march to the presidential palace. that would be volatile, and we'll see about tomorrow's demonstration. this was a confusing day everywhere. imagine inside the west wing of the white house. for that we want to go to our chief white house correspondent, chuck todd. chuck, good evening. >> reporter: good evening,
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brian. it's fair to say right now the white house and the west wing is scrambling. they're trying to put together a statement, written statement from the president, but earlier today based on their own intelligence, the president went out during a trip in michigan and sounded a very optimistic tone about what was happening. >> but what is absolutely clear is that we are witnessing history unfold. it's a moment of transformation that's taking place because the people of egypt are calling for change. they have turned out in extraordinary numbers representing all ages and all walks of life. but it's young people who have been at the forefront. >> reporter: brian, look, they're still trying to figure out what happened. they did believe mubarak was going to go. and something happened in the day, sometime during the time. obviously richard has been reporting this. this time they're trying to be very careful with who you they word the president's response
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and that's why we're not going to see him on camera at all tonight and possibly not even tomorrow morning. >> chuck todd where they're still scrambling to figure this out at the white house tonight. chuck, thanks. people around the world are obviously more or less in this together tonight, meaning we're all trying to figure out what this means, this change during the day for hosni mubarak. our own richard engel is reporting on. and of course that includes inside the state department, elsewhere in the corridors of government. our chief foreign affairs correspondent, andrea mitchell, with us from our washington newsroom with more. andrea, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, brian. not only did u.s. officials expect mubarak to step down as chuck just reported, they said so publicly. they were delivering their annual report to congress, just as most of the world thought that the revolution was reaching its peak in cairo and they had to answer questions about it. cia director, leon panetta. >> i got the same information you did, that there is a strong
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likelihood that mubarak may step down this evening, which would be significant in terms of where the hopefully orderly transition in egypt takes place. >> reporter: later officials said that panetta was responding to news reports. but when mubarak finally spoke, washington just froze. even state department and intelligence analysts were not sure just how to interpret his remarks. exactly which powers was he delegates, they weren't sure. what did he mean when he said he was stabilizing the streets. one official told me this is entirely fluid. mubarak is sending contradictory messages. another described mubarak's speech as the beginning of a long swan song, but still could not explain all the conflicting reports that washington had received in advance, calling this one of the most complex political chess games in history. brian. >> incredible day, andrea. of course it goes on. andrea mitchell in our washington newsroom. as we continue to try to figure all this out, we're joined in that endeavor by professor fawuz from the london school of economics.
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professor, in plain english what did we just witness happen here today? >> well, brian, what we witnessed is a regime disconnected from reality, clueless, out of it. president mubarak and suleiman, his vice president, don't appreciate the gravity of the crisis. in fact, brian, i would say that the mubarak regime has tested positive for cancer, yet mubarak and suleiman have deluded themselves, they have a migraine. and that's a very, very dangerous situation because disconnected from reality, it's a recipe for escalation, a recipe for a disaster for egypt. >> and, professor, as you pointed out earlier today on the air, they may be being cheered on quietly by other arab leaders who would love to see strength and resolve on the part of mubarak? >> you're absolutely correct. tonight is a good day for arab dictators. they realize that mubarak is fighting to the end. they realize that they want to
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postpone the inevitable. they realize that mubarak is not being humiliated. they realize that mubarak is not listening to the americans. theide has not fully shifted against them yet. >> it's helpful in our explanation of what happened today, professor, thank you very much. i know it's late at night in london, for sticking around to talk to us. we'll take a break in our coverage here. when we come back, some of the other news of this day, including the incredible ordeal some high school students are facing as they deal with the war next door, and of course we'll return to our nbc news coverage of the volatile situation in egypt. [ male announcer ] those with frequent heartburn imagine a day free of worry, a day when we can eat what we want, drink what we want, and sleep soundly through the night. finally that day has arrived with prevacid®24hr. just one pill helps keep you heartburn-free for a full 24 hours.
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the speech we all saw by hosni mubarak. what's your understanding of what he's done tonight? >> thank you very much for having me. i was interested to clarify the situation. apparently there was a misinterpretation of the arabic text of the speech. i just wanted to clarify for objectivity sake that the president had transferred the authority of the office of the president to the vice president, so in effect all authorities of the president of egypt have been now bestowed on the vice president who is effectively now undertaking those responsibilities. >> but, mr. ambassador, hosni mubarak remains the titular president of egypt and he remains in egypt and you'd have to agree that both of those appear to run counter to the goals of the protesters? >> i think the protesters are able to express their opinion, how they viewed these
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developments. they are accorded the freedom to do so under the protection of the military. they will decide to what extent this development has fulfilled their demands. during the speech there was also quite an extensive reference of the ongoing reform process that would continue under the guarantee of the military, and that issues related to peaceful and orderly and meaningful transition of power would be undertaken under the legitimacy of the constitution of egypt. >> but, mr. ambassador, what you're saying he said, why didn't he just say that? >> he did. he did say that he had transferred the authority of the president to the vice president. very clearly. by our translation, the version i heard, there was a modifier there. it was not that specific. >> the arabic text -- >> thus we wouldn't have this much confusion in tahrir square
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in egypt. >> well, what i heard in terms of an english translation was incorrect. i have the text in black and white in front of me and there is no qualification other than this is undertaken under the terms of the constitution. >> well, i'll have to ask you if this worries you. on twitter tonight, mohamed elbaradei and i'm quoting, has said egypt will explode. army must save the country now. and it certainly looks like, mr. ambassador, we're headed into a volatile next 24 hours, a lot of people are scared of this outcome. >> we are in challenging times. the people of egypt are seeking reform, are seeking greater democracy and governance. and of course we all look forward that these measures will be undertaken. we hope that if there are demonstrations they will be
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peaceful as they have been during this last week, and everyone has indicated the military has guaranteed that he would continue to protect the rights of egyptians to express their opinions freely in all circumstances. >> so the corrected record is hosni mubarak holds the dejure legal title of president of egypt. the de facto president of egypt, meaning day-to-day control under your understanding is the vice president, mr. suleiman. >> that is my understanding. that is what has been confirmed to me by authorities in egypt quite categorically. >> samehshoukry, mr. ak bambass thanks for calling in tonight. we appreciate your time. we will take a break. we're back with more in just a moment. back. [ ding ]
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back here once again. there is some non-egypt news. we promised you this next story. in el paso, texas, hundreds of students gathered today at cathedral high school for a memorial service for two american teenagers. they were killed just across the border in mexico. 16-year-old carlos mario gonzalez, 15-year-old juan carlos ekavaria were visiting a friend when all three were shot and killed at a car dealership. juarez had 3,000 murders last year alone during this ongoing drug war. a natural gas explosion shook allentown, pennsylvania, overnight, leveling at least two homes, sparking fires that kept burning for hours in the downtown section. five people were killed, including a baby. one other is missing. it's not clear what caused the explosion. and in politics tonight, another day, another income bent united states senator, arizona's jon kyl, the second-ranking
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republican, saying he won't run for re-election. kyl has held his seat since 1994. he is the fifth u.s. senator out of 100 to announce plans to retire. after a break, we will go back to cairo for more of our coverage of the fast-moving developments in egypt when "nightly news" continues. [ male announcer ] from jet engines that have fewer emissions, to new ways to charge electric cars, to renewable sources of clean energy, ecomagination from ge is advanced technology that's good for both the economy and the environment. ♪ it's technology that makes the world work. [ squawking ] ♪
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as promised, let's go back to cairo. our chief foreign correspondent, richard engel, try to get our arms around this day. we've just witnessed still going on there with thousands on the streets. richard, we start out, you're reporting, we're reporting, the white house believes, other news organizations believe hosni mubarak is leaving. he goes on national television, says, using a very kind of some said patronizing paternal tone, says i'm staying. we get a phone call tonight from the ambassador saying, yeah, but he's given all his powers to the vice president, don't worry about that. what do we make of all of this? >> reporter: well, president mubarak is not playing by the same script as all of his advisers in this country. he is clearly trying to make this concession, what he
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believes is a major concession, to step aside and assume a more symbolic role. now we're hearing the demonstrators calling for the army to intervene, calling for the army to take a clearer position on their behalf and effectively carry out a coup and appoint a new government. that is what the protesters are going to try to call for tomorrow, and to show their strength in numbers, brian. >> this day started out, we had comparisons on the air to the berlin wall coming down, to new year's eve in times square. having just stood where you're standing, i know behind you, before you get to the nile river, there's a path along which protesters come and go to their neighborhoods all day. i assume they're walking home tonight before tomorrow. what's the chant we're overhearing tonight? >> reporter: you can hear them right now. they are saying "the army and the people hand in hand." and that is the message they want to convey, that the army must intervene to no longer defend president mubarak, but to
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side with the people. they want to show that they truly have the majority tomorrow. >> all right. and we'll be back at our coverage tomorrow. richard engel, our thanks for your reporting all day from cairo. updates all night, of course, on msnbc, your late local news, tomorrow morning on "today" and back here tomorrow night. for us for now, that's our thursday night broadcast, an eventful day. thank you for being here with us for all of it. i'm brian williams. we'll hope to see you right back here tomorrow evening. good night.


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